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  • Slate: 'Those languages that haven't adapted the English term often have to make do with a word that means something more general like postponement, missing out on the nuances of procrastination. In Russian, for instance, procrastination is usually rendered as promedlenie, or "delay." Alternatively, a Russian speaker could go the literary route and allude to Oblomov, the dithering protagonist in Ivan Goncharov's 1859 novel. Oblomovshchina or Oblomovism has come to describe a whole set of characteristics (often ascribed to Russia as a whole), including "the habit of waiting for everything to be provided by others rather than oneself." Arabic, on the other hand, comes a bit closer to the mark with taswif, literally meaning "to say, 'I will, I will.' " "A beautiful word—considered etymologically," opined Sir Richard Burton in a footnote to his translation of Arabian Nights.'

    May 14, 2008